Portraits of Courage, Hope

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How do we honor the fallen? It’s a question that’s been rattling around in my mind for some time.

I teach veterans. I am friends with veterans. I once loved a veteran.

But, the truth is, very few of us know the stories of those who died protecting every freedom we hold dear. What were their final thoughts? What insights would they have wanted the world to know?

I think Portraits of Courage by George W. Bush gets close. Beyond the incredible paintings, Bush penetrates the gaping vulnerabilities left in wounded veterans.

In many ways, it offers a rare glimpse into the painful inside of war.

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Meeting the Deplorable

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“My insurance is gonna run out soon. Truman promised to take care of us.”

When you’re immersed in Appalachia, this statement translates quite easily: I used to work in the mines.

But the coal industry that sustained life in West Virginia – and, if we’re honest, the rest of America – is now idle. Caught in the political crosshairs, tens of thousands of men and women are now without work.

The local pastor with whom our mission team recently served was quick to redirect our sympathy: “I can’t even go through a metal detector – I got metal in my knees and hip!”

It was a light moment before the grim reality of the region intensified: There is no money.

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Descending the Ivory Tower

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My uncle is a plumber. To the average American, there is nothing exceptional about his life.

One Christmas, when our extended family still gathered for the holidays, my uncle was late. At the time he was working for a highly-esteemed university in our community.

The reason for his tardiness that particular year? He had been called in to shovel snow off of campus sidewalks.

I remember staring at him in disbelief. “But it’s Christmas.”

“Well,” he explained with an air of resentment, “those professors gotta have clear sidewalks so they can do their work.”

What I didn’t realize then was that this division – between the haves and the have-nots – was bigger than Christmas lunch that year. That it would only grow in the years to come. And that it would forever change our political landscape.

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This Election’s Teachable Moment

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“Nothing you do is anonymous.”

Just moments before, the conversation in my first-year writing classroom had taken a surprising turn: Yik Yak. I felt compelled to offer caution to young adults not yet wise in the ways of a conniving world. Not everyone plays nice…or fair. And nothing “published” is ever truly deleted.

But, if I’m honest, my mind was consumed with a different kind of rhetoric. Like most Americans, I could not cease replaying the painful and awkward exchanges during the final presidential debate.

In my job I am expected to guide young people in their writing, their research, and their communication.

But all I could think of was the wreck borne of honesty derailed.

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A Wall, Our Peril

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I saw a young man walk into a wall at the park last week. No joke.

The Pokémon Go craze has almost (yes, almost) intrigued me enough to learn how I, too, can walk into walls and run away in shame.

But, let’s be honest, we have bigger things upon which to focus. Take the 2016 Republican National Convention. Even if you haven’t watched it (I haven’t), I’m sure you’ve heard the highlights:

Trump said something inappropriate!

Protests took place outside!

Cruz got booed!

So in the midst of much excitement (i.e. drama), why then are thousands of people choosing to escape into an augmented reality game?

Because, quite simply, we are already living the game – all of us.

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What Scares Me about Trump

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Election year is upon us, and every day there is a new reason to loathe politics. In my own mind, I can’t quite wrap my head around a Trump candidacy or, worse, a Trump presidency.

Over and over, I wrestle with the thought of my children’s future being steered, at least for the next four years, by Donald Trump. In truth, I don’t personally know the man, and, sadly, just like the rest of us, I am largely informed by media agendas.

This week I saw that Trump has released a partial list of the foreign policy advisors that will guide him if he is elected. Who is on this list? I would argue that it doesn’t really matter. The individuals who are passionately following Trump and pledging their dogmatic allegiance do not need to know his list (or any tangible details) because, quite frankly, it will not impact their vote.

Should it?

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